Tucked into a budget bill passed earlier this month by the Oregon Legislature was a $260,000 allocation for an unusual program that will send Portland high school students to the desert.
A semester in the country will soon be available in the Burnt River School District, located in the Eastern Oregon town of Unity.
The rural district is trying to expand its offerings for its small group of students—there are only 33 in the district—by drawing students from Portland and elsewhere.
State education funding follows students, but the district will need the extra $260,000 to house the city kids.
"They've been running a foreign exchange program to keep enrollment up," said Portland Public Schools spokesman Jon Isaacs, noting the money allocated to the Burnt River district will be used to spruce up a dorm that already exists.
Portland students will have education and housing expenses covered. Families will need to cover living expenses, including the cost of meals that aren't served at school, Isaacs said.
Beginning in the fall, up to 20 students a semester will be able to attend, Isaacs said.
The program will focus on "natural resource studies, agricultural experience, water quality monitoring, animal husbandry, sustainable rangeland science, forest restoration, and organic food production," according to a budget summary.